Growth Pattern Matters

Growth Pattern Matters

Do you want it to grow up? Or Down? Or pooooosssibly, tucked in?

Just kidding. Kind of. 

Growth pattern matters. Knowing how your plant is going to develop as it grows is important for a few reasons. It helps determine whether it’ll work for the spot you have in mind, it can tell you what styling options are available for it, and it guides how you'll be able to prune or propagate in the future.

Most importantly, it helps you best support the long term health of your plant. Indoor plants do best when we mimic their natural environment as closely as we can, so knowing how they grow in the wild tells us what they’ll need indoors, and whether we can provide it or not.

To try and keep this relatively simple, I’m going to generalize growth patterns into these four categories: vining, upright, crawling, and bushy. Some plants can overlap into a combination of these growth patterns - you might notice some examples listed twice.


Vining Plants

The first example of a vine that might pop in your head is your classic English Ivy. Vining plants grow leaves connected together by a long, relatively thin stem, trailing one after the next. The new stem and leaves sprout from nodes along the vine, which are found where the leaves attach. 

These are the plants you might see indoors hanging up in a corner of a room, or on a higher shelf, with their vines and leaves draping over the sides of their container. They make beautiful cascading decor when placed higher up in a space and allowed to trail downwards. 

However, like any ivy you’ve seen outside, most vines love to climb. In their natural habitats, they’re typically seen climbing up a nearby tree, wall, or other surface they can cling to, meaning they loooove something to climb indoors too. This is especially true for larger vines like Monstera and some Philodendron. They can quickly sprawl and take over an area if not given a direction in which to grow, via some stake or moss pole solution.

Examples include: Pothos (epipremnum), Ivy (hedera), Monstera, hemiepiphyte (vining) Philodendrons, Hoya, Tradescantia

Neon Pothos                                            Monstera Deliciosa

Upright Plants

Upright plants may be pretty self explanatory. These plants, for the most part, will grow upwards out of the soil they’re in, eventually favoring the direction their main light source comes from. These plants develop a main stem that gets thick and sometimes woody. Leaves typically sprout from the tip of the stem, and they’ll eventually create branches outwards, which can be encouraged by trimming the main stem. 

Upright plants can also grow like a fountain. Picture how water comes out of a fountain in a park somewhere - leaves sprout from the centermost point of the base of the plant, protrude upwards, and then fan out around the center as they develop, sometimes with a stem. 

These plants won’t do very well hanging up and are much better suited for surfaces like a desk, a shelf, or the floor, depending on the size and maturity of the plant. Some of these will also appreciate a stake for support as they stretch upwards, as they can get a bit top heavy. 

Examples include: Ficus like Fiddle Figs or Rubber Trees, Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia), self-heading Philodendron, most Cacti, Dracaena, Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Ficus Elastica                                       Philodendron Prince of Orange

Crawling Plants

These are plants that grow horizontally and sprawl across the surface of the soil they’re touching. These plants will typically have more shallow root systems, which helps allow for a wider spread across the soil surface. These can also develop roots straight from the vine wherever the nodes are touching the soil, contributing to the crawling growth pattern as well. Crawling plants could be considered a sub-category of vining plants, but these prefer to sprawl vs. climb. 

They are great for wider, more shallow containers, and can be styled on surfaces or shelves. Eventually the foliage will reach the end of the container and cascade over the edge, making more mature crawling plants great for hanging decor as well. 

Examples include: String of Turtles and other variations of Peperomia, String of Pearls, or other String succulents, Tradescantia, Creeping Figs

Peperomia Prostrata (String of Turtles)    Tradescantia Rainbow Zebra

Bushy Plants

These plants won’t get super tall, but will grow thick and full of foliage, much like how outdoor shrubs grow. You may have seen some of these in outdoor landscaping depending on where you are, but they’re great indoor plants as well. These develop a thick base, with a network of foliage growing upwards and outwards in many directions. Some of these develop a thick trunk and woody branches, more like your typical shrub. Others will just develop a thick bush of foliage with more slender stems. 

These make great surface plants such as on tables, desk tops, shelves, or the floor, again depending on the size and maturity of the plant. More foliage-heavy bushy plants can also be styled hanging up, or on higher shelves. 

Examples include: Jade plants and other Crassula, Peperomia, some small Ficus varieties, Umbrella Trees (Shefflera), Calathea, Begonia

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)                      Umbrella Tree Var. (Shefflera arboricola)


Growth pattern is one of several important things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for indoor plants. 

It may not be the most critical factor, but knowing more about a plant’s growth pattern helps you keep it healthy long term as it matures. It guides how it can be styled and displayed, how you’ll be able to prune or propagate, and whether you have a good spot for it in your space or not. 

Let us know if you learned something from this! Or reach out if you have more questions. You can get in touch over on our Contact page, or email directly at

Thanks for reading, and may all your plants’ deaths be Slow and Green.

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